The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

Apologies mean nothing


Mea culpas by athletes mean nothing to me.

I like watching Tiger Woods playing golf, but I don't care whether he cheated on his wife, Elin. His apology should be directed to her and to their children, not to me or to the public.

I was upset when Donte' Stallworth had too much to drink and hit a pedestrian with his car, killing him. But even a direct apology to Mario Reyes' grieving family won't bring him back, nor will apologies to the public. And I care a lot that baseball records have been skewed by Mark McGwire and other superstars who used performance-enhancing drugs, but I don't accept their rather lame apologies -- the sport that was my favorite as a child has, to me, been damaged badly with steroid-enhanced records.

But I've also seen too many athletes in trouble say they won't transgress again and then continue to do what got them into trouble. Pacman Jones comes to mind and he paid the price. As of today, he no longer has an NFL career.

OK, I'm old school. No, I'm just old. I acknowledge that. I have little use for tabloids or TMZ, or even more respectable media outlets who seem bent on turning up anything and everything about the personal lives of athletes and other celebrities. When I started in this business more than 40 years ago, what athletes or politicians did in their professional lives was what I reported -- including arrests and, more recently, problems with both performance-enhancing and street drugs.

Their private lives were their own unless they chose to make that an issue. But the world in 2010 is not what it was in 1965 so what is "news'' now is different. We now have a 24/7 news cycle in which what happened 12 hours or 18 hours or 24 hours earlier is already obsolete. That means not only do we report 24/7, but athletes are fair game 24/7, in and out of the arena. (It also means the newspaper business is dying, but that's another sad story.)

Can apologies undo the damage? Frankly, I think Tiger should just shut up, return to golf and try to get 18 major titles. In fact, I think his handlers have hurt his image, not helped it, with a stage-managed "press conference.'' (No questions allowed, please.)

I'd like to see Stallworth get a crack at a new career with the Ravens. And while I'm not a Cardinals fan, I hope McGwire succeeds as a batting coach because ... well, just because taking steroids is not a crime for which the punishment should be unemployment.

That brings me to Michael Vick. He served 17 months in a federal prison for what I consider a horrendous crime, dogfighting and the murder of dogs. Now he's apologized, works with the Humane Society and restarted his NFL career last season (not especially well). He did the crime, he did his time and I wish him well.

He also apologized.

Was it sincere? I don't care. In fact, I didn't pay much attention, even though everyone from sportscasters to lawyers to ethicists discussed it ad nauseum on television. As long as Vick doesn't deliberately kill any more animals, I wish him well for the rest of his career.

But as I said, I'm old school.

By Dave Goldberg  |  February 19, 2010; 6:21 AM ET  | Category:  Crime , Donte Stallworth , Michael Vick , NFL , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Tiger Owes Us Nothing | Next: Actions speak louder


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I couldn't agree more. In fact this column makes so much sense I'm surprised you were allowed to publish it.

Posted by: NYCman | February 19, 2010 11:35 AM

We live in a society and we are supposed to play by the rules.
If Wood is caught stealing instead of cheating, as long as it was not your stuff, will it be OK?

Posted by: cordobes17 | February 20, 2010 9:16 AM


Posted by: hatchlaw | February 20, 2010 3:53 PM

Apology seldom conveys regret for the actual hurt. More often is a knee-jerk reaction to the offender’s feeling of shame which is promptly attenuated by the gesture of making amends, so it is self-serving. The more such instances, with time, the thinner the sense of shame becomes.
Because it hardly ever sets anything straight for the offended--the deed was done and cannot be reversed-- short of atonement, the apology is an expression of regret for the benefit of stroking the offender’s feelings. And eventually it becomes conventional.

Posted by: argo | February 20, 2010 5:47 PM

There is only one valid reason why Tiger Woods should have even had to contemplate making a public apology--the Tiger Woods franchise. That franchise was initiated by and ultimately depends on his prowess as a golfer, but it is damaged by his perceived non-golfing transgressions. From here on out, he should say nothing more and let his golf do the talking.

Posted by: cm06acf | February 20, 2010 7:35 PM

If somebody bought a $5,000 watch that cost $100 to make in China because glossy adverts convinced them that it was the watch worn by a successful but upright family guy like Tiger Woods they probably have a right to feel cheated.

You might say that is a stupid reason to buy a watch but even magazines that attract a presumably rational readership like Scientific American are full of such ads and they must work.

So I can't quite articulate why I think Tiger Woods owes people an apology but its in there somewhere. People trusted him enough to spend money on his word and he let them down.

If he had said from the start of his career that he would screw anything that stayed still long enough and it was none of our business, fair enough. But he probably wouldn't have earned as much.

Posted by: glennet | February 20, 2010 7:48 PM

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